Thrifting helps save the environment daily. But on Earth Day April 22, shoppers at America’s Thrift Stores (ATS) will get extra discounts for two days by bringing in two bags of gently used clothing, along with free refreshments for all Earth Day shoppers.
“Reduce, Reuse, Thrift!” is the motto of the for-profit chain, which operates 17 stores in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana.
On a recent visit to its vast Tuscaloosa store, four students and interns at the nearby Church of the Highlands were getting into the spirit early. They shopped for wacky sports attire to wear in an upcoming 10K race. They scored neon-sqiggled Lycra leggings for $2.99 and bags of more conventional grey and black running jerseys, all under $5.
In honor of Earth Day, store employees were running a “guess the weight” contest on top of a bale of thrifted clothing – a huge block of green-hued garments. The winner receives a $50 gift certificate.
Using 2,300 donation bins, the stores collect clothing, housewares, and sports equipment in the name of charities and Christian ministries, which receive a portion of the profits from the stores. It also offers free home pickup, especially after garage sales. (“Leave the leftovers to us!” it begs.)
Founded in Birmingham, AL, in 1984, the stores donate more than $4 million a year to its charity partners, such as Make-A-Wish Alabama and Children’s HealthCare of Atlanta.
With about 8,000 items entering each store’s racks and shelves daily, the motto for ATS shoppers is persistence and stamina. Not all stores have dressing rooms, so women are advised to wear leggings and tank tops for try-ons near mirrors. Its army of store sorters ensures only clean, intact clothing is hung, but shoppers should know the store does not wash items first. As is the rule for all thrift stores, we recommend washing or dry cleaning all purchases before introducing them to your closet.
The toddler and baby sections have the most unused, tags-on items. Typical labels in the women’s section include New York & Company, Coldwater Creek and Liz Claiborne. There are shoes, handbags, underwear and a smattering of new merchandise hung on end caps, usually women’s and men’s socks and some new women’s shapewear.
Although nominally organized by size, we found a lot of size mixing. That’s where the persistence comes in. You’re going to need time to find the treasures here, but they definitely exist.
We left with a Sag Harbor pink/white cotton polyester no-iron blouse for $2.99, a $3.99 Mountain Lake II orange linen blouse with small decorative pleats in the back, a $1.59 pair of new argyle socks and a 59-cent orange and red patterned neckerchief.
There are seasonal and daily specials of 30 to 50 percent off designated by tag colors. Check the stores’ Facebook page Monday morning to see what color is on for the week.
On Mondays, senior citizens get an extra 10 percent off. Ditto on Wednesday for military and first responders and on Thursday for educators, college students and school personnel.
The stores’ Facebook page features photographs of the contents of its trailers and donation bins. “See what we kept out of the landfills!” it brags. As an employee’s T-shirt reads, “Earth. It’s the only one we have.”
America’s Thrift Stores, 1735 Skyland Blvd. East, Tuscaloosa, AL 35405
Open Monday through Saturday 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday noon to 7 p.m.